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World War 1: Paris 1919 – A New World: University of Glasgow [Three Weeks]
100% Coming out of the MA in British Military History with a Postgraduate Certificate and 60 credits after one year it was good to take part in something carried by a leading academic. A challenge is worth taking on when there is something new to learn and understand. The WW1 theme hooked the interest and most students expected to stay there. Even if off my brief I was nonetheless happy to go the distances stretching out through WW2 and the creation and early history of the United Nations.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1. My mashup from the FutureLearn App using Studio
I continue to wonder what impact FutureLearn will have on future models for e-learning platforms. I turn screengrabs into aide memoires like the one above.
Comments on the ‘Start Writing Fiction’ threads are now down from 3000 per thread to a few hundred … a fall out of 95% is usual for a myriad of reasons. It’ll be interesting to find out how many make it to the end … and in due course who ends up a published author, and most especially how many migrate from a FREE MOOC to a paid-for course with The OU. I have a sense that most on the module are over 60 and broke.
We’ve just listened to a handful of authors talking about the importance of reading.
I found this insightful and helpful across the board. I relate to Louis de Bernieres in terms of reading habits – different authors, same approach entering and re-entering writing/reading modes in months … something I need to change i.e. write, edit and read a daily pattern. Patricia Duncker says she read and views everything – a philosophy of Francois Truffaut who I was a fan of, especially trashy novels in his case. And from Alex Garner I see the value of seeing a novel as a screenplay, even as a director setting scenes, something incidentally Hilary Mantel talks about in an OU / BBC interview – write in scenes. Succinct. No messing. It relates to her understanding of how we reader in the 21st century – that we are used to and know the snappiness of the movie and TV. She says that the lengthy descriptions of Victorian novels are no longer palatable. I take from this that we have far too great a vivid view of the world. We know what slums, jungles and places globally look like. We see through time in documentaries, and film and now online. You mention the mud of Passchendaele and most people can picture it from commonly shared photographs and documentaries. An editing exercise reduced 500 words to 50. Most novice writers grossly overwrite. This OU MOOC favours pithy craft.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1 Something I wrote 40 years ago ! (age 13)
The last five weeks I’ve been following the FutureLearn MOOC ‘Start Writing Fiction’.
Extraordinary. I’m on my second pass. I came through early, and now return not wanting to get ahead of the conversation. Particularly useful as I am actively writing at the moment, so this is the best of all learning because it is applied. Regarding character it about giving them shape, depth and ‘points of interest’ – more 6D than even the 2D we are asked to get away from. I visualise characters as hedgehogs with many prickles, but only a few of these matter to the story – though all of them matter to the notebook which I’m gradually coming to care about more and more, cursing the times I ‘have a thought’ and don’t get it down somewhere safely. I am hugely pleased to be here and very proud to be an OU graduate already – not, sadly, from this faculty: yet!
I’m finding the oddest of balances in my life too:
- Writing for myself from 4.00am to 8.00am.
- Picking up work from 10.00am.
- Evenings from 5.00pm to 9.00pm
I am often ‘poolside’ teaching or coaching swimmers.
Delighting yesterday evening to be back with some squad swimmers I last saw four years ago – now in the mid teens, some achieving amazing things in the water, all at that gangly stage of youth development my own children have come through in the last year.
The issue then is how or where or why I fit in the OU module L120 I committed to. Learning a language is daunting and outside my comfort zone. What I do know now, not surprisingly, is that all learning comes about as a result of concerted and consistent effort over a long period of time.
Fig.1. The connectedness of activity theory pyramids in a new paradigm.
Three years ago I took an interest in Activity Theory, which is a set of six nodes representing a formal ‘community of practice’ – Yrjo Engestrom meets Etienne Wenger. The principles of Activity Theory, linked and driven with an objective are breaking down because of the connectedness of people circumventing these superimposed channels – what I did was to start to draw six activity theory pyramids each interacting on a common object but with additional links connecting all the nodes. I was simplifying the complex intuitively – now I see there is some science to be done here with both quantitative and qualitative research.
Fig.2. Does connectedness across an activity theory pyramid circumvent the silo-like nodes?
Is this going to work?
This is music to my ears – it’s magic to feel your thinking has taken a turn and you find that there is a community of people there already. I took an interest in Activity Theory (Yrjo Engestrom) a few years ago and have used his six node pyramid as part of a small network, I’ve used it to explain creativity between two people believing that part of the network had to be embedded in each person’s brain but not knowing how to show or justify this … and wanting not to lose the simple model as connectedness in the Web circumvents the formal nodes and links that traditional activity theory requires. I then started to interlink sets of six activity theory pyramids recognising that with greater complexity the clarity is lost. I can now move on from conjecture and look at models of networks created from the data while seeking to explain what is happening through good old human interaction – exploratory interviews i.e. qualitative research. Fascinating.
Engestrom (2008). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
A neurobiologist would argue that all manifestations of human inventiveness stem from our ability to think in metaphors and therefore to be able to see beyond our current reality. The authors and thinkers who have imagined and tried to create a library of everything, an index of everything, a microfiche or computer of evrything are many: H G Wells and Douglas Adam, Vanevar Bush, Thomas Bodley …. Regarding the issue of the origins or history of the Web’s inception it is a complex and massive human story, indeed, like the roots of a growing tree as a mirror to what is going on above the ground, it has the potential to fill many volumes and to occupy many minds. Perspective is everything – education, culture, personal experience, personality and academic discipline – each would offer a different perspective. Pressing on with a biological metaphor perhaps like the origins of life on earth we can nonetheless start from a specific moment – the equivalent of those first cells that began to split and evolve?
Just because an ‘editor’ contributes to content in Wikipedia does not make them an authority. Imagine a feature film or documentary made where anyone can chip in and perform whatever role they fancy. Does this not pander to the poser and the ignorant?
Fig. 1. How the eBrain looks – everything’s tagged. (Lost property, London Underground)
I’m delighted to say the Open University’s student blog upgrade is an enhancement. The improvements are seamless without any loss of what we had before … a ‘bulletin-board-cum-blog-thingey’.
Become an OU student to see this for yourself.
I will get Internet access in my ‘office’ – a studio down the road, away from home and family, DIY, the garden … but not the dog. She’s allowed.
All that it requires from me is something I lack – self-discipline NOT to get distracted by email, which includes updated postings from forums and the likes of Linkedin (let alone a gaggle of family members on Facebook). AOL is the worst as I innocently go to check email and find 20 minutes later I am still clicking through the inviting gobbets of news and sensation that is offered.
I had hoped to behave like the smoker trying to give up – I’ll only smoke other people’s fags. A very, very, very long time ago … I can honestly say I have never smoked a cigarette since I turned 20.
Back to the Internet. Like Television.
Or diet. We are living in an age where self-control is vital. Having not had a TV for several months I was eventually pushed to buy one. Courtesy of Which? we now have a TV so Smart that it probably tells my brother in South Africa who is watching what …. we can Skype sofa to sofa. I just wonder if our antics could be recorded and posted on YouTube? Not my doing but any of the teenagers with the wherewithal just hit a record button somewhere.
In all this hi-tech I DO have a tool I’d recommend to anyone.
I’ve invested in an hour-glass. In runs for 30 minutes. While that sand is running all I may do is read and take notes. This might be an eBook, or a printed book, either way they are on a bookstand. I take notes, fountain pen to lined paper. What could be easier? The left hand may highlight or bookmark and turn a page, while the right writes?
This works as the filtering process of the knowledge that I am reading and want to retain needs to go through several steps in any case. The handwritten notes will be reduced again as I go through, typing up the ideas that have some resonance for me.
My current task has been ‘How Europe went to war in 1914’ by Christopher Clark.
I doubt my second thorough read will be the last. From notes I will start posting blogs and going into related social platforms to share and develop thoughts and in so doing be corrected while firming up my own views. I need this social interaction, to join the discussion if not the debate.
Meanwhile I will revisit Martin Weller‘s book on Digital Scholarship.
However swift the age of the Internet may be he suggests it will still take a person ten years to achieve the ‘scholar’ level … whereas John Seely Brown recently reckoned this was now down to five years. i.e. through undergraduate and postgraduate levels and popping out the other end with a PhD in five years.
DIdn’t an 18 year old who was home schooled just get called to the Bar?
She graduated with a law degree while contemporaries did A’ Levels and finished High School and then did a year of pupilage I suppose.
The intellectual ‘have’s’ of the future will, by one means of another, achieve degree status at this age. The Internet permits it.
School is far, far, far, far, far too lax.
It tends to the median if not the mediocre. Long ago it found a way to process kids as a genderless year group instead of treading each student as an individual … so let them skip a year, let them stay back a year … allow them to expand and push subjects that appeal to them.